Iron deficiency in pregnancy, why it is so important to keep your levels in the right range!
Feeling tired, lethargic or even sad and depressed?
Experiencing restless leg syndrome?
Are you catching every cold or bug that’s out there?
Experiencing heart palpitations?
Unfortunately this is the story of many pregnant women, and they think it’s normal because they are pregnant. But it does not have to be. Those symptoms could all be due to iron deficiency. Depending on the severity of the deficiency it can often be corrected with the right nutrition.
At the beginning of your pregnancy your Hb levels are established among other important factors. Normal Hb level for women ranges from 12 mg/dl to 15 mg/dl. During pregnancy there is a physiological drop in Hb levels, due to increased plasma volume in your blood, so a little drop in your levels is to be expected. You have to be careful though not to let it drop to low. If your level drops below 11,2 mg/dl there is a need for intervention. When your level drops this low most doctors subscribe an iron supplement and rightfully so. These supplements do often cause stomach irritability, nausea and constipation, it is always better to work towards preventing this to happen.
With the right nutrition from the start you may be able to prevent iron deficiency all together.
There are two kinds of iron heme iron and non heme iron.
Heme is the iron that we get from eating red meat, the heme iron can be easily absorbed into our body, please try to stay away from processed meat and opt for only grass fed if possible.
The non heme iron needs help from vitamin C to be able to be better absorbed in to our body. There are plenty of delicious ways that you are able to get enough iron, the trick is to eat mindfully. I always recommend my pregnant mommas to eat one “iron meal” a day to prevent iron deficiency. This could be perfect as an in between meal snack where you eat a food high in iron and pair it with a food high in vitamin C, actually a win win situation. At the same time you need to be careful not consume milk or milk products, coffee or tea within a couple of hours of your iron meal since those substances can all inhibit the absorption of iron.
Here is one example:
Recipe: “iron cookies”
2 – 3 yellow ripe bananas (depending on size)
Bananas are very nutrition dense, packed with vitamin B6 (also important to fight anemia) and potassium.
2 cups oats 4,7 mg/100 g iron
1cup cooked Amaranth 7,6 mg/100g iron
1 cup dried apricots 2,7mg/100g iron
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbs coconut oil
Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor or a blender.
With an ice scooper or two tablespoons, scoop on to a baking sheet
Bake in preheated oven at 380 F for about 12 -15 min.
Pair these cookies with this vitamin C bomb smoothie
And you have a winner.
There is substantial evidence that iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. Low iron levels in the newborn are also associated with low maternal iron levels, making the infant among others more prone to infections.
Another important reason to watch your iron levels during pregnancy, is the fact that during birth women loose blood, this is inevitable. If you go into birth already with a low level, it is bound to drop even further. Postpartum iron deficiency is really common and can have a serious impact on the young mothers physical and emotional health. Causing among others:
increased risk of postnatal depression
Increased prevalence of urinary tract infections
Fatigue and exhaustion
Reduced breast milk quality
My own experience with postpartum iron deficiency 15 years ago, I had been under the care a a dietitian during my pregnancy to keep my blood sugar under control ( recommending lots of sugar substitutes, if I could only go back in time). Not once did she mention the importance of iron. I was send home from the hospital with Hb level of 7.8 mg/dl an d a prescription for iron. Subsequently my son was more or less sick the first ten weeks of his life, including being hospitalized with pneumonia at seven weeks and catching chickenpox when he was only nine weeks old. Me, I got the worst flu postpartum and could hardly get out of bed for days.
So thankful that I was more informed and knowledgeable in my last pregnancy, nourished my self right and my now 3 year old so far, has never had to take any medication.
This is why I recommend all my pregnant mommas out there: Please, please, please take control of your overall health during pregnancy eat mindfully and stay healthy.
I wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy